Last week while traveling in Northern California my wife PattiÂ and I made a stop in Sebastopol. Sebastopol is one of those sleepy little towns that people in the big city dream about. It’s in the heart of the wine country region of Sonoma County where the fresh air, nearby redwood forests, terraced vineyards, lush green scenery and a slower-paced lifestyle beg city-dwellers to come visit.
Just a few blocks from the center of this little town is the brand new Guayaki Yerba Mate Bar. At last, a yerba mate bar that unabashedly sells yerba mate any way you want it. There is no hiding behind a long list of coffees and teas; this is the real deal. The place sells healthy organic food, snacks and yerba mate — just like mate bars in South America.
This was a special stop for me, because I had pre-arranged a meeting with the folks at Guayaki Sustainable Rainforest Products, Inc.Â Guayaki is the dominant U.S. brand of yerba mate. Guayaki Co-Founder, Alex Pryor, was in the U.S. on one of his infrequent visits, which made this meeting even more special. I last visited with Alex at his home inÂ Argentina two years ago.
Alex Pryor and Richard Bruehl
We talked for a few minutes and then Richard Bruehl, Vice-President of Operations, went for a mate gourd. In the traditional mate circle, we all shared a mate prepared by Alex, the Chief Cebador for Guayaki, and opined about world ecology. Everybody at Guayaki is passionate about saving the planet from pollution, waste and the rampant destruction of natural resources. To them yerba mate is a tool for bringing peoples from many cultures together toÂ create a larger self-sustaining world community.
Later in the morning Richard led us on a tour of the Sebastopol facility, pointing out differences from their previous headquarters in San Luis Obispo, California. I was so wrapped up in the tour I almost forgot the main reason I came was to experience the new mate bar.
The mate bar is located on Highway 12 as you approach the center of Sebastopol from Santa Rosa. It has excellent street exposure and parking next to the building on either side. A tropical rainforest-themed mural adorns the entrance facade and initiates patrons to the jungle theme inside.
The interior is tastefully decorated with photos and artifacts from South America that produce an excellent atmosphere for a quiet yerba mate to be enjoyed alone or with friends. I noticed that people came in two or three at a time. One woman came in by herself, but she was accompanied by her laptop. The Guayaki Mate Bar has free Wi-Fi.
Adrienne Peters is the Manager of the Mate Bar, which has only been open for about a month. Adrienne did not just start when they opened however. She has helped with layout,Â design, construction, decorating and stocking for months. Her background in art, dance, teaching, personal training andÂ restaurant managementÂ all played a part in bringing the perfect “jungle lounge” atmosphere to Sebastopol. But, the capper to her qualifications — she has been drinking yerba mate since 1995 — that’s before Guayaki was even founded!
The Guayaki Mate Bar is not just another “cookie-cutter” cafe. The menuÂ boasts manyÂ locally grown organic foodsÂ that change with the seasons to assure freshness and variety. Local artists and craftsmen haveÂ created special pieces of furniture to complement South American artifacts and even the pictures on the walls tell the story of yerba mate.
We were so impressed with this U.S. version of a mate bar that we went back the next day for a morning mate and lunch. Like I mentioned earlier, you can get any kind of mate you want.Â Patti asked for a Brewed Mate and I ordered the full “Gourd Service” while we pondered the lunch menu.
For the full Gourd Service,Â a cebadorÂ comes to the table with all of the “fixin’s” to prepare a mate — loose yerba, a small container of cool water, a large pot of hot water, a ceramic gourd and a bombilla. You can order the individual size like I did, or a larger size to share with friends. For the novice,Â the cebadorÂ will help prepare one of the Guayaki gourds for you or show you how to prepare your own gourd. A good mate bar in Argentina will offer this same courtesy — but wait, this is right here in California!
Patti ordered a “bountiful green”Â salad for lunch. It was topped with a special organic dressing and apple slices and came with a side of toasted organic bread. I ordered a “trio” of organic empanadas (beef, chicken and veggie) that came with a side salad, curried cashews and chimichurri on the side. This was the first time I ever tried chimichurri, which is a famous Argentine sauce. It’s to die for!
Adrienne told us they were still tweaking the menu and some of their procedures. They are in no hurry to “go big;” they just want to dial-in a good little mate bar that can also serve as a retail outlet for some of the Guayaki products. The adjacent headquarters is not really open to the public, so this little storefront operation serves a very useful purpose.
One change that already occurred was the hours of operation. It turns out that the Sebastopol patrons really don’t arrive at the crack of dawn as anticipated. Current hours are: 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on weekdays and 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on weekends. Their biggest rush starts at 10:00 a.m.
Your biggest rush should be to visit the Guayaki Organic Yerba Mate Bar at 6782 Sebastopol Avenue in Sebastopol, California. Your mate is waiting!